Sunday, July 20, 2014

Denim Duster with Grommets


It was foggy, chilly, and very windy when I took these pics!

I've finished!!!

I've finally finished my denim duster with grommets and bellows pockets!

This thing took me weeks to sew. More than a month.

Why did this take you so long?, you ask?

Excellent question!

It took so long partly for the usual reasons (daily, long commute which saps energy, now walking over 11,500 steps a day which also takes time), but mostly for the following reasons:

  • I flat felled every seam on this coat by hand. Normally I enjoy hand sewing, but this fabric did not cooperate. It resisted every single stitch of the needle, giving me damaged, sore fingers and, more than once, driving the back of the needle into my middle finger. (You guessed it, I do not use a thimble.)
  • I set close to 288 grommets into this coat. How do I know the approximate count? I bought two gross of grommets and used most of them up.
  • There were problems with my grommet supplier. In my first order, I ordered a gross of several sizes of black grommets to test out. I didn't open the box until the July 4th weekend. (Big mistake, but I normally do not have problems with my orders.) That's when I realized that the gross of the size I preferred had been left out of the box (leaving me only the 44 pair of grommets that came with the setter), and I couldn't call to fix it until Monday after the 4-day weekend. I called that Monday and they sent me the gross, which arrived on Friday. I spent the weekend hammering grommets and realized, horror of horrors, that I needed another gross. All of these delays slowed things down.
  • Installing 2 gross of grommets... well, that just takes a little time. Your back needs a break from the vigorous hammering now and again. :)
  • Lots of stuff going on outside of work, which eats into the sewing time on my weekends. For example, this weekend, I celebrated my birthday with my daughters. We hiked for hours in Butano State Park, eating Artichoke Garlic Herb bread and Olallieberry Pies from Norm's Market in Pescadero. Yum. (The Olallieberry is similar to a blackberry.)
Foreground: Olallieberry Pie on the left. Artichoke Garlic Herb bread on the right. My friends assured me that this bread is worthy of Bucket List status. It is quite tasty.

My progeny inherited my silly gene

But finish I did! I had decided some time ago that I was tired of sewing quick and easy garments every weekend in order to have a weekly post. I do like posting at least once a week, but I was putting too much pressure on myself and wasn't able to dive into meaty, more interesting projects. So I've let go the idea that I have to post every week. And I hope to be showing you more of a mix of the more interesting, along with the quick and satisfying. There is certainly a place for both in every wardrobe.

And now, on to the knitty gritty details.

The fabric:

I keep calling this fabric a denim, but I lie. Sorta. What is denim? The wikipedia definition is a good one:

Denim is a sturdy cotton twill textile in which the weft passes under two or more warp threads. This twill weaving produces the familiar diagonal ribbing of the denim that distinguishes it from cotton duck.

It is a characteristic of most indigo denim that only the warp threads are dyed, whereas the weft threads remain plain white. As a result of the warp-faced twill weaving, one side of the textile then shows the blue warp threads and the other side shows the white weft threads. This is why blue jeans are white on the inside. The indigo dyeing process, in which the core of the warp threads remain white, creates denim's fading characteristics, which are unique compared to every other textile.

You'll note that one of the defining characteristics of denim is the twill weave, which causes a diagonal ridge on the face of the fabric. My fabric has a plain weave, not a twill weave, but it is woven using threads you would find in any denim garment. The warp threads (the long direction) in this 100% denim-like cotton are solid indigo blue. The weft threads (that are woven up and over the warp threads in the loom), are indigo blue and white. This causes a subtle pinstripe design across the grain of the fabric (from selvedge to selvedge). I wanted the stripes to go up and down the body, so I cut the pattern out on the cross grain.

My cutting table, littered with "grommet holes" (similar in concept to donut holes)

For some reason this fabric often photographs as grey, but it's indigo colored. The grommets are a matte black. I had 4-1/2 yards of this 60" wide fabric in my stash and it is a very crisp, unyielding denim, so I tried softening it with Coke. It did not work. This project used almost all of the 4-1/2 yards.

The pattern:

I used a dress pattern, Very Easy Vogue 8983.

Vogue 8983

This pattern has great lines. It features armscye princess seams, front and back. (Lots of opportunities for fitting.) The front princess seams are offset - they do not go directly through the bust point. This is why there is a short dart from the bust point to the princess seam. Don't ask me why, but I like this design feature and I saw more of this sort of princess seam in the recent Vogue offerings. (For example, Vogue 9019.)

This dress also features the recent trend of a mullet, or high-low, hem. In general, I am not crazy about mullet dresses, particularly extreme mullet hems. (I do like a more subtle mullet hem.) But the extreme high-low hem seems like a trend that will go by the wayside very quickly. Despite that, I kinda liked the mullet on the pattern drawing. I posted the question "Mullet dresses. Yay or Nay?" on my Facebook page and got a lot of interesting answers, but the prevailing opinion was "nay". When I pinned the paper pattern together, I quickly realized that this was a fairly extreme mullet hem. The front of the dress ended at my knee (yuck) and the back ended near my ankle. So I lengthened the front over 6 inches, leaving the length alone in the back. This affected most every pattern piece, since it's a gradual change.

When I had the garment sewn together and on my body, I quickly realized that I hated the mullet hem. Hated. So I lopped it off, removing about 8" of length at CB, but leaving the length I had added at the front.

The primary reason I chose this pattern, other than the princess seams, was for the front band that goes around the neck and down the front in a continuous line. I wanted to fill this with grommets, creating a kind of self "trim".

Other pattern alterations:

  • Lowered the bust dart by about 2".
  • I decided I did not want to do my usual FBA, for long reasons that I won't go into here. Instead, I graded the bodice up so it would fit around my bust. (I have new thoughts about my FBA in certain garments, which requires a separate post.) This was a lengthy process since there are so many vertical seams and I added 3/8" to each seam.
  • The dress does not have pockets. I wanted some interesting pockets, so I used my Pulmu Pocket pattern, which I copied from a RTW coat from Korea (via the thrift store). This bellows-style pocket has a large opening, which didn't hang well in the stiff denim, so I contained the fullness by creating a pleat and securing it with a larger grommet. Only the top part of these pockets are attached to the garment, leaving the rest to hang free.
  • The sleeves on this dress are short with a straight hem. The pattern shows them folded up. I wanted a longer sleeve, but not a full length sleeve, as this is a lightweight "summer" coat. (Keeping in mind that summer in San Francisco can be pretty darned cold.) I drafted a 3" sleeve band to create a sort of lantern shape at the end of the sleeve - it tapers just above the wrist.
  • When I graded up the dress, I decided I didn't want closures - so I made it just meet at the bust. Closures would detract from the grommets and I couldn't find hooks I liked that were subtle enough.
  • The seam allowances are 5/8", as with all McVogueRick patterns, but I used 1/4" on the very outside seam, when attaching the band facing to the band. I did this because I wanted to make the band just a bit wider for the grommets.
  • Omitted the belt.
  • Added the Pulmu Pockets.
  • Grommeted the heck out of it.
  • As mentioned, I removed the high-low hem.
  • Flat felled each seam by hand. Hemmed by hand. Then topstitched most seams and the hem with black top-stitching thread.
  • Made liberal use of the mallet for the thick areas, such as when a seam crosses over another seam and I needed to top-stitch over that, creating even more layers. Hammering these areas really does make it easier for the machine to handle.
  • I was considering raising the neckline, but when I tried on the paper pattern tissue, I decided to leave it.

The result:

As I was working on this project, Margy asked me once or twice if I liked it. I wasn't sure. Now that it's finished I can say that I do like it. (I don't know that I love it, but I like it.) I hope I wear it. I don't usually think of wearing a long coat in warmer weather, even a lightweight coat. But I really like the heft that the grommets give to the coat. Time will tell.

I already have my next project planned. It requires some pattern drafting to take advantage of a beautiful fabric, but shouldn't be too time consuming to construct. I do plan to muslin it, since it is a special fabric. Have a great week!